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All you desire, p.1
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       All You Desire, p.1

           Kirsten Miller
All You Desire

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page





















































  All You Desire


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Young Readers Group

  345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East,

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  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand,

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  Copyright © 2011 Kirsten Miller

  All rights reserved

  ISBN : 978-1-101-54346-7

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available

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  Haven Moore checked her watch and turned back toward the city. There was plenty of time to get home before dark, yet she decided to pick up her pace. She didn’t want to find herself alone with the dead when the sun finally slid behind the trees.

  Haven hadn’t expected to find the Appia Antica so deserted. Otherwise she might have chosen another spot for a stroll. In the summertime, the famous road on the outskirts of Rome was bustling with people visiting the ancient tombs that lined the route. But it was a cold February afternoon, and Haven had encountered only a few hardy travelers in fleece jackets and hiking boots. For three full hours she had been alone with her thoughts. That wasn’t at all what she’d wanted. These days they were dangerous company to keep.

  The wind picked up speed, raising Haven’s black curls and setting them adrift. She captured the strands that had fallen in front of her blue-gray eyes and tucked them behind her ear. Ahead, at the crest of a hill, a familiar mausoleum stood by the side of the road. Tall and perfectly round, it resembled a turret sticking out of the hillside. Haven liked to imagine that there might be an entire castle buried beneath it. As always, she paused and peered up at the grisly garland of carved bull skulls that decorated the structure. Below, a simple plaque identified the building as the resting place of Caecilia Metella. Caecilia’s tomb was the most famous on the Appian Way, yet little was known about the woman it housed. She must have been adored to have had such a monument built in her honor. Perhaps she’d been beautiful, brilliant, or wise. Whatever her story, it was long forgotten. Two thousand years after her death, Caecilia Metella was just another soul lost in time.

  Suddenly chilled, Haven zipped up her jacket and put the tomb behind her. A pristine white taxi appeared on the horizon, like the ghost of a New York City yellow cab. When it pulled over, two girls emerged from the backseat and dragged a third out behind them. As the group made their way toward the tomb, Haven could see they were sixteen or seventeen—only a couple of years younger than she. They all wore jeans and matching blue sweatshirts with the letters HH stitched in white. American high school students, Haven thought. Overprivileged delinquents sent to Rome to soak up some culture. She’d seen others like them in the piazza below her apartment, guzzling cheap wine before making fools of themselves in the fountains. At times she envied them. She knew she’d grown up a little too quickly.

  Deep in conversation, the trio barely registered Haven’s presence as they passed her. They weren’t the carefree youths she’d imagined. The girl in the middle looked pale and miserable. She walked with her eyes on her feet, relying on her companions to guide her safely down the road.

  “You shouldn’t have tricked me like this,” she whimpered.

  “You’ll thank us later,” Haven heard one of the friends respond. “I still don’t understand how you could visit Rome three times and never bother to see your own tomb.”

  Haven stopped in the street.

  “I told you. I didn’t know it was here,” the girl in the middle replied hoarsely. “And I wouldn’t have come if I had.”

  “But you found out about the tomb months ago. Why didn’t you hunt down some pictures online? Weren’t you curious?”

  This time the girl said nothing. Haven glanced back to see her shaking her head.

  “Well, you’re here in person now. Look up.”

  The three girls came to a halt.

  “Look up, Caroline!”

  It took a moment before Caroline finally lifted her head. Haven couldn’t see the girl’s face, but she could hear her sobbing.

  “Please don’t cry,” pleaded one of the friends. She sounded surprised by the depth of Caroline’s sorrow. “Your husband must have loved you very much if he built this for you. They say it’s one of the most beautiful tombs in Rome.”

  “You just don’t get it. If he loved me, he would have found me again,” Caroline tried to explain. “I’ve searched for him everywhere. I’m sure he
s come back. He just hasn’t been looking for me.”

  Haven was on the verge of approaching the girls when the third spoke. Her voice remained chipper. She didn’t seem to understand what had transpired.

  “Come on, Caroline. Don’t you see how silly you’re being? And to think you’d never have come here if Adam hadn’t suggested it.”

  The name stole Haven’s breath. Her heart pounding and face burning, she turned and stumbled back toward Rome.


  “The train to Florence leaves in an hour.” Iain was watching her from the doorway with a puzzled look on his face. “Don’t you think it might be a good time to start packing?” His bags were already waiting in the foyer.

  “Why would I want to bring any clothes?” Haven tried to joke. She took a slow sip of coffee and gazed down from the balcony at the Piazza Navona below. The water in the plaza’s three fountains glistened in the morning light, and the outdoor cafés were starting to fill up. Once Haven had enjoyed watching the tourists ramble through the square with their maps, cameras, and unruly children. These days it often felt as if she were standing guard, keeping watch for anyone who might threaten her happiness. “I thought this was going to be a vacation.”

  “With that attitude, you’ll probably be quite popular at the hotel.” Iain gave her a wink. “Now stop dawdling or we’re going to be late.”

  “What if I don’t want to go anymore?” Haven tried her best to sound lighthearted, but she couldn’t keep the quiver out of her voice. Iain caught her as she stepped into the living room from the balcony. When he pulled her into his arms, she could hear his heart beating, slow and steady.

  “We’re going to have fun,” he promised, his face buried in her wild black hair. “You’ll remember this trip for the rest of our lives.”

  HAVEN RELUCTANTLY TURNED toward the hall closet and opened its door for the first time in months. Jammed inside were all the dresses she had designed that weren’t quite right. Fabric that had faded or frayed. And the suitcases she’d brought with her when she and Iain had moved to Rome, each one sprinkled with a fine layer of dust. Haven kept her hands by her side, worried that touching the cases might break the spell. The months she’d spent in Rome had been magical—that was the only word she could find to describe them. Formerly the pariah of Snope City, Tennessee, Haven finally had the life she’d craved. Barely nineteen years old, she spent her days running a successful boutique on the Via dei Condotti and returned to a sun-swept apartment that overlooked one of the loveliest piazzas in the city.

  Every evening for almost a year, Haven had arrived home to an empty house. No matter what the weather was like outside, she always opened the doors to the balcony and waited for the most wonderful sound in the world. Soon, her ears would catch a note of the song that Iain whistled whenever he crossed the square. An ancient tune with no name, it was his way of telling her they would soon be together.

  Minutes later, Iain would burst through the door, his arms filled with food gathered from Rome’s many markets. Sometimes, he let it all fall to the floor when he discovered Haven waiting to greet him. The eggs would break, and dinner didn’t make it to the table before nine. Late at night, when their hunger was finally sated, they would leave the apartment and wander hand in hand through the empty streets while Iain whispered stories of their many lives together.

  HAVEN HAD LET herself hope that it would all last forever. But now she and Iain were leaving Rome, and it felt as if their golden year might be reaching its end. For more than a week, Haven had sensed something was wrong. It had started with a quick glimpse of a figure dressed in black crossing the piazza below her balcony. She hadn’t gotten a good look at the man. It could have been anyone. And that was what worried her most. After that, the city seemed to be hiding secrets from her. The days grew darker, and the weather turned colder. Haven always suspected someone was watching, and every time she turned a corner, she held her breath, expecting to find the dark figure waiting for her around the bend.

  At first she’d kept her suspicions to herself. But after the encounter with the three girls on the Appia Antica, Haven knew she and Iain needed to act quickly. The danger was real, not imagined. If they stayed in Rome, they risked being discovered. Iain thought she was being too cautious, but he happily suggested a trip north to Tuscany. There was something in Florence, he’d said, that Haven might like to see.

  HAVEN GRABBED ONE of her dusty suitcases by the handle and lugged it out into the hall. Inside the closet, a bag of fabric scraps teetered and tumbled to the floor. Haven groaned as she stooped to gather the pieces one by one. Then her fingers brushed against a canvas at the back of the closet. She’d almost forgotten it was there. The painting had been a housewarming present from one of the few people outside her family who knew where to find them. Haven pushed a heavy coat to one side and peered between her cluttered heaps of belongings. Up close, the artwork was a swirl of color. Only when she took a step back did forms begin to emerge from the chaos.

  The painting was part of a much larger series. A few others like it could be found hanging on the third floor of a run-down house not far from the Brooklyn Bridge. The remaining works—several hundred of them—were slowly rotting away in a warehouse in Queens. Not even the most morbid art collector would have chosen to display them. Each showed some tragic scene from the past—and together they formed a catalog of disasters large and small. Shipwrecks and fires, betrayals and heartbreaks, all set in motion by the same mysterious figure who could be found lurking somewhere in each image. But only if you knew where to look for him.

  The day the painting had been delivered to the apartment, Haven had ripped away its wrapping, eager to see what lay beneath. The artist, Marta Vega, was an old friend of Iain’s. For years Marta’s work had been inspired by terrible visions of the past. The visions had stopped once she’d escaped New York and settled in Paris. There she’d started a series of paintings that reflected her newfound hopes for the future. Haven had been expecting to find such a work beneath the brown paper. Instead, she found a sinister image with a bright yellow Post-it attached.

  This was the last one I painted, the note read. I know it was meant for you. After a single glance, Iain had whisked the painting away and stashed it behind the coats and dresses inside the hall closet. Later Haven had overheard him on the phone with Marta, his voice an angry whisper. He told the girl she should never have sent him the painting. It was the last thing Haven needed to see, and he hoped she hadn’t had a good look. The time would come for them to face their demons. For now, he didn’t want Haven to worry.

  But Haven had seen the image, and it had left an indelible impression. For days afterward, she thought of little else. The painting showed two people—a young man and woman—surrounded by an angry mob. The faces weren’t clear. But Haven recognized the girl’s unruly thatch of black hair as her own. And she knew it was the only painting Marta Vega had ever created that showed not the past but the future.

  Now Haven studied the painting for the first time since its arrival, looking for the minuscule figure in black that Marta inserted into each of her works. This time, he was nowhere to be found. And yet his absence wasn’t a comfort. It felt as though he had stepped off the canvas and into Haven’s life again. He was out there somewhere. If not in Rome, then not far away. The man in the picture—the figure in black—had been following Haven for centuries.

  “Haven,” she heard Iain call, a trace of alarm in his voice. “What did you find in there?”

  Haven crammed the painting back into the closet. “I’ll be ready to go in ten minutes,” she answered, ignoring the question. “Ask the driver to get here as soon as he can.”


  Haven had seen it all before. Strolling along the banks of the Arno River, she was overwhelmed by the sensation that she had walked the same path countless times in the past. Most people would have glibly dismissed it as déjà vu. But Haven knew better. If she had the feeling she’d seen Fl
orence before, then it was fairly certain she had. Just not in this lifetime.

  Haven’s gloved hand squeezed Iain’s arm. “I know this place.” Ahead of them, a bridge spanned the narrowest part of the river. It was flanked on both sides by rickety buildings—orange houses and saffron-colored dwellings that jutted out over the Arno. In the icy gray waters below, two fat muskrats paddled around a pier. “I saw that bridge get swept away by the river. I must have been very young when it happened, but I remember it clearly. And then I watched them build it all over again.”

  Iain’s frozen breath hung in the air when he laughed. “I was wondering when you might say something.” His memories of the past were much better than Haven’s—his memories were better than everyone’s. “It’s called the Ponte Vecchio. It was destroyed by a flood in 1333. They rebuilt it in 1345.”

  “Were we here then?” Haven asked. “In 1345?”

  “You were here in 1345,” Iain replied. “I died the year before, when I was sixteen years old.”

  Haven still winced whenever Iain mentioned one of his deaths, even if it had occurred hundreds of years in the past. It didn’t matter how many previous existences they’d shared. Every life that had been cut short reminded her how fragile their current lives could be. “You died at sixteen?”

  “I fell off my horse on the road to Rome. Broke my neck. But a lot of people would say I was lucky. Half of Florence died three years later—of something much worse than a broken neck.”

  “What’s worse than a broken neck?”

  “The black death.” Iain took Haven’s hand in his and pulled her away from the river and between the tall gray columns of the Uffizi Gallery. The winter sun was losing its strength, and the courtyard of the museum felt frigid. Patches of black ice expanded and multiplied in the shadows. A group of Spanish tourists shivered inside their goose-down parkas. The women among them gaped at Iain as if one of the museum’s statues had suddenly sprung to life. A few pointed and whispered. Iain didn’t notice—he rarely did—but Haven smiled and pulled the handsome boy even closer.

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